Darling Harbour at Sydney, home to Australia’s Maritime Museum, rolls hundreds of years of history into its floating exhibits. We visited the museum with John and Wendy Payne, our missionary partners who work in Family History.
We thought we were going to have to cash it in prematurely with our first tour of the World War II submarine HMS Onslow. Soon after we descended into the sub’s hold, Joe got a glimpse of the three level bunks where the sailors slept. The narrow bunks were nestled into the curve of the sub’s sides and we could imagine the three sailors not quite being able to turn over without knocking a shoulder. Crew members closed their eyes only inches below a body above that only got a one minute shower once a week. Tough Joe kind of lost it then. Though visitors bunched up both behind us and in front of us, he had to beat a hasty retreat up the ladder and out to fresh air and space.
He was more comfortable on the HMS Viper, an early 1950’s destroyer. Here he is in the map room. This ship was decked out with 1950s décor and even had an early television set. We could see how life on this ship would have been livable, even enjoyable.
We were fortunate that a tall ship from the Ecuadorean Navy was in port as part of its
worldwide maiden voyage. This was a very colorful ship with its crew all decked out in impeccable starched white uniforms. One of the officers told us that the purpose of this ship was to train the officers in the navy on sailing techniques.
Our favorite ship was the Australian-built replica of James Cook’s HMB Endeavour. This replica of Captain Cook’s 1768 voyage is one of the most accurate replicas in the world. Though the ship was a marvel of its time boasting a real pot belly stove in the captain’s quarters, the crew had to endure less than perfect conditions. In fact, the ship was refitted for this voyage so it would carry more crew members. So what did they do? They divided the space into two decks of about 4 feet each. That meant sailors had to crouch to move through it. Even the ship surgeon had to live in one of these short rooms. See photo of Wendy and Jill crouched on the half deck above. (Joe also had issues with this deck and refused to crawl). go on this journey.
Back in the main museum, we viewed artifacts and displays from the famous Shackleton Transatlantic Expedition of 1914. This, one of the most arduous survival stories of all time, tells about how a voyage to achieve a rendezvous went poorly and the ship got stuck and froze in place. The crew, under the leadership of Shackleton, managed to walk through Antarctica with most of its crew still alive.
Our time at the maritime museum reminded us again how Australia is a large island, and the sea played an integral in its history.